Entries in marital satisfaction (22)

Tuesday
Nov242015

Is More Sex Always Better?

When it comes to sex, the more the better right? Popular perception would suggest that the answer to this question is yes. Media messages often tout the benefits of sex, going as far as to suggest that having sex every day in a relationship might be one route to greater happiness. In a recent set of studies my colleagues and I investigated whether more frequent sex was, in fact, associated with more happiness and found that it was, but only to a point.1

Across three studies of over 30,000 participants, we found that people who reported having more frequent sex in their relationship also reported being happier. But this association was no longer true at frequencies greater than once a week. To be clear, having sex more frequently than once a week was not associated with less happiness, it just wasn’t associated with more happiness on average.

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Friday
May012015

Nice Genes: Serotonin, Conflict, and Marital Satisfaction

Ever wonder what can cause one couple to stay together and another to divorce? One study found that high levels of negative emotion such as arguing or criticism and low levels of positive emotion such as indifference during marital interactions were associated with lower levels of martial satisfaction.1 In other words, if a couple fights a lot, and does so in a not-so-nice way, they’re not as happy in their marriage. This conclusion seems like a “no brainer.” Who wants to be in a hostile relationship?  

But we all know couples that seem to fight all the time yet remain relatively happy and stay together for years, whereas others seem to split at the first sign of a disagreement. Is there a way to tell if a relationship is at risk for being especially affected by negative interaction dynamics?

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Friday
Oct172014

Diamonds Aren’t Forever: Expensive Rings and Weddings May Lead to Relationship Problems

My husband and I got hitched this past June, which I can honestly say was one of the happiest and most transcendent experiences of my life. However, we both agree that whereas the wedding was awesome, the wedding planning process was decidedly not awesome. Navigating the wedding industry can be quite frustrating, in part because of the relentless pressure to spend fantastic amounts of money on anything and everything wedding-related. As a relationships researcher, I was particularly interested in, and baffled by, the rhetoric that many vendors use in order to sell wedding services and products.

Many of the sales pitches boil down to the idea that couples in love should want expensive weddings. Vendors will argue that if you truly love your partner, you should be willing to go to any lengths (at least monetarily) to properly celebrate that love on your “special day”. For example, maybe you want to show your love for your partner by getting a fancy gilded guestbook for your guests to sign, or personally monogrammed hand towels for the reception bathroom. Sometimes the rhetoric even goes so far as to suggest that an expensive wedding guarantees you true love. With a perfectly straight face, some vendors will tell you that your wedding day will “set the tone” for your marriage, and you should be willing to do anything it takes to start your marriage off “on the right foot”. For example, perhaps you should set the right tone by hiring a 20-piece orchestra for your ceremony, or limos to transport all your guests to the reception.

Examples of this sort of advertising can be traced back to the 1940s, when De Beers diamond company launched their infamous “Diamonds are forever” campaign. Indeed, many of the social norms around marriage proposals—such as the arbitrary benchmark of two months’ salary that men should spend on an engagement ring—come from De Beers’ successful advertising efforts. Like the wedding industry more broadly, the diamond industry relies on the premise that spending a great deal of money shows love for your partner and predicts relationship success. This idea is widespread in our culture, likely because it is a marketer’s dream: who wouldn’t pay any price to ensure marital bliss? What’s less clear is how accurate these notions are. To what extent do high levels of spending actually predict marital bliss?

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Sunday
Sep072014

Ashton Kutcher: Why Mila Will Succeed Where Demi Failed

Image Source:www.netquake.net/In Hollywood, where a relationship lasting five years is an impressive feat, celebrity break-ups are predictable. Needless to say, when Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher’s 8-year relationship ended in 2011, it wasn’t shocking news. However, it was intriguing that Ashton began a new relationship soon after with Mila Kunis, his co-star from That ’70s Show. Will Ashton’s new relationship with Mila last longer than the 8 years that Ashton spent with Demi?  On one hand, the outcome may not be all that different; Demi and Mila are fairly similar. Both women are beautiful celebrities/actresses who are famous, wealthy, have the same hair color and, strangely, both have one hazel and one green eye (apparently Ashton has a thing for mix-and-match eyes). But on the other hand, Mila and Demi have some differences that may make the Ashton-Mila pairing more likely to lead to happily ever after, or at least to last longer than 8 years (it is Hollywood, after all). 

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Monday
Feb242014

The "Marriage Hack"

It seems like everywhere you turn, professionals are trying to make your life easier. Medical doctors discover breakthrough treatments for illnesses. Engineers design revolutionary new gadgets and devices. And psychologists devise simple and ingenious activities for couples to sustain their relationships.

For most married couples, satisfaction declines over time, meaning that couples typically become less and less happy with their relationships the longer they’ve been together. But a group of scientists developed an intervention that they have affectionately termed, “The Marriage Hack” (see the TED talk here), utilizing a technique they call emotional reappraisal. Emotional reappraisal occurs when couples re-evaluate their experiences by imagining how a neutral 3rd party (an unbiased person outside the couple) would view their behavior.

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Friday
Dec132013

Knowing the Fate of Your Marriage: It’s Automatic

If I say that this post is about “unconscious feelings toward romantic partners,” you’d probably think that I’m about to serve up a big plate of Freud with a side of some repressed memories. Rest assured, I’m not going to get all “dreams and cigars” on you, but new research, published in the journal Science1 suggests that our unconscious feelings about our partners might be the Magic 8-Ball when it comes to future marriage satisfaction. The media has characterized this research as “knowing in your gut” whether you marriage will succeed (see here for an example), but we assure you that your stomach has nothing to do with it. 

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Monday
Dec092013

Getting Married? Love Science? Here are Our Ten Research-Based Wedding Vows

I study romantic relationships. I’m also engaged. So, of course, I’ve given a tremendous amount of thought as to what it really means for my partner and I to marry one another. Researchers have found that weddings are deeply significant life events, but we don’t really know why they’re so meaningful. Marriage may simply be about celebrating a milestone: recognizing the relationship that a couple has built together and the love that they share for each other. But weddings are also very future-oriented, as the couple publicly promises to maintain their relationship for life. I suspect that it’s really these vows – the solemn promises that the newlyweds make to each other in front of their closest friends and family – that are at the crux of why weddings have such an emotional impact.

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Monday
Dec022013

The Orchid Effect: How Relationships and Genetics Influence Your Health 

A lot of things undermine physical health, like poor diet, lack of exercise, and not enough sleep. Did you know that dysfunctional relationships — those characterized by lots of conflict and poor communication — also contribute to poor health? For example, when couples are "hostile" toward one another, there’s a good chance that any recent wounds (even everyday cuts and abrasions) will take longer to heal than if partners maintain a more civil and responsive tone with one another during disagreements or other conversations.1 On the other hand, good relationships, and not just those we have with our romantic partners, generally benefit our overall health. But why?

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Monday
Jun242013

Log On for Love?

Several years ago I received a Facebook message from a stranger.  After exchanging a few innocuous messages with him, he invited me to lunch and—partly because I was recently single, partly because I had never gone on a formal date with someone I met online, and partly because I enjoy the excitement of a potential kidnapping—I agreed. Over the course of the meal he peppered me with a series of questions that I thought were somewhat atypical for a first date (“How many children do you want?” “How soon can I meet your family?”).  Eventually, I set my fork down and said, “Not to be rude or anything, but it feels like you’re auditioning me to be your wife.” He shrugged his shoulders and replied, “Kind of, yeah.”

Despite my adventurous spirit, I had enough sense to not marry the guy. But a growing number of individuals are meeting their future spouses online. In fact, results of a recent nationally representative study suggest that over one-third of individuals who married between 2005 and 2012 originally met their partners on the Internet.1 What is particularly compelling about this study, however, is that it tackled a previously overlooked question that many dating websites (e.g., eHarmony) claim to know the answer to: Do individuals who meet their partners online or offline have more successful marriages?

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Thursday
May022013

New Parents: We’re On the Same Team

image source: living.msn.comHaving a first child can be a stressful time for couples for many reasons. One factor that may contribute to new-parent stress is whether the new parents agree on how to parent. In a recent study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, researchers examined whether new parents had similar parenting styles and felt like they were working together as team in raising their new infants; they also assessed whether this teamwork was related to parents’ mental health and relationship satisfaction. New mothers and fathers who felt like their parenting styles were similar had more positive moods and experienced less depression in the months following the birth of their first child. In addition, perceived agreement in parenting styles was related to mothers’ overall relationship satisfaction. 

Don, B. P., Biehle, S. N., Mickelson, K. D. (in press). Feeling like part of a team: Perceived parenting agreement among first-time parents. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

Tuesday
Feb262013

Wanna Make You Feel Wanted: Husbands’ Sensitive Support Predicts Relationship Outcomes

The country pop hit song “Wanted” by Hunter Hayes resonates with individuals in close relationships who strive to make their beloveds feel cherished and desired. Despite the heartfelt nature of the song, the motives for and consequences of this approach to relationships remain uncertain. What drives the desire to make one’s partner feel wanted? How does it affect our relationships? And is the longing to “hold your hand forever and never let you forget it” particularly characteristic of males, as “Wanted” implies?

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Monday
Jul092012

"Seven Days of Sex": Will It Save Your Marriage?

“Can sex restore marital harmony?” Couples are putting this hypothesis to the test on Lifetime’s new television series 7 Days of Sex (watch it here). Even though the results of everyday coitus seem highly effective on TV, what does science say? Can sex really save a marriage?

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Monday
Feb272012

Five Risk Factors for Divorce

A few months ago I wrote about research conducted in my lab on predicting the stability (i.e., persistence vs. breakup) of dating relationships. That article received a lot of traffic, but some readers have asked if similar research has been done on predicting whether a marriage will continue or not. Fortunately, researchers have tackled this question as well. Here are five factors that predict staying married versus getting divorced.

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Monday
Feb062012

Rekindle the Romance in Your Relationship with Self-Expansion

If your relationship has become a bit stagnant, it likely lacks sufficient self-expansion.  As we’ve discussed previously, self-expansion refers to people’s inherent desires to improve themselves and relationships serve as a key route to accomplishing this goal. However, many relationships are in a rut or otherwise feel a bit stagnant, stale, or boring. Want to learn about some strategies for improving your relationship that counteract boredom by fostering self-expansion? Read on... 

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Tuesday
Nov292011

Mo Materialism, Mo Problems in Marriage

Researchers examined over 1,700 married couples to determine whether  materialistic individuals (i.e., those who agree with statements such as "I like to own things to impress people" and "money can buy happiness") experience increased relationship problems. More materialistic individuals reported less partner responsiveness, worse communication, poorer conflict resolution, and lower marital quality compared to people who devalue material possessions. The negative effects of materialism were more pronounced when both partners were materialistic.

Carroll, J. S., Call, L. L., Busby, D. M., & Dean, L. R. (2011). Materialism and marriage: Couple profiles of congruent and incongruent spouses. Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, 10(4), 287-308. doi:10.1080/15332691.2011.613306

Monday
Nov282011

Healthy Men (But Not Women) Have Better Sex and Happier Relationships

As if you needed one more reason to feel guilty for couch-surfing when you should be kick-boxing, a recent study on long-term relationships indicates that men in excellent or good health have better sex than their flabbier or sickly peers. The good news doesn’t stop there: healthier dudes are nearly twice as likely to report relationship happiness outside the bedroom as well.

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Monday
Nov142011

What Sex Can Do For Neuroticism

In a previous post, I discussed the health benefits of sex, and now, new research suggests that combating the negative consequences of neuroticism can be added to the list.

As far as partner’s personalities go, neuroticism, or the tendency to experience negative emotional states such as anxiety and depressed mood, has the strongest impact on romantic relationship quality. People who are higher in neuroticism tend to be less satisfied in their relationships, and as you’d expect, so are their partners.

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Wednesday
Aug172011

Happily Ever After? The Wife Better Be Thinner than Her Husband 

Ever notice how TV-couple wives are thinner than their husbands? It’s no accident. Researchers followed 169 newlywed couples’ body mass indexes (BMI) for four years. Happier marriages were those in which wives were thinner than husbands, regardless of income, education, and partners’ absolute BMI. Thus, it’s not about being skinny, per se. It is the relative difference in BMI that predicts satisfaction. Maybe the way to a man’s heart really is through his stomach.

Meltzer, A. L., McNulty, J. K., Novak, S. A., Butler E. A., & Karney, B. R. (2011). Social Psychological and Personality Science. doi: 10.1177/1948550610395781

Tuesday
Aug162011

Hit the Road, Improve Your Relationship

Summer is a terrific time to take a well-deserved vacation (click here to learn about what makes vacations great). Often those vacation plans include the opportunity to travel. Regardless of the specifics of your travel plans, you will often share the experience with a romantic partner.

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Friday
Jul222011

Stress: It Does a Marriage Good

Couples who report larger amounts of stress outside their marriages also tend to report less satisfaction within their marriages. You have probably heard the classic “joke” about a person being mad at the boss, but she can’t yell at her boss, so she goes home and yells at her husband, who, in turn, yells at their son, who then kicks the dog, who wonders what it did wrong.  Perhaps not a very funny joke (or not funny at all), but it does illustrate a phenomenon that researchers call stress spillover: when stress from outside the marriage causes problems inside the marriage.

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